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Cool stuff: FreshDirect vending machines for your apartment building?

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After Eater.com’s post last week on the latest store-to-mouth innovation from FreshDirect, our FiOS-envy was joined by…vending machine lust.

It turns out that FreshDirect has been test-driving its popular workplace vending machines in three large Manhattan rental buildings for the last several months, including Chelsea Landmark, the newish downtown luxury high-rise.  

FreshDirect's refrigerated machines are stocked with fresh “4-minute meals” created by culinary notables like Tabla, Rosa Mexicano, and Terrance Brennan. Salads are working their way into the rotation, soon to be followed by soups and snacks.

At $4.95-$8.95 apiece, the 4-minute no-tax-or-tip meals (also available through FreshDirect's less impulse-oriented delivery service) ring up a lot cheaper than our minimum spend on even the thriftiest take-out menu in our drawer.

And we’re getting a little verklempt at the prospect of satisfying dueling palates (15 choices here, folks) for less than 15 bucks.

So….how we do we get our hands on one of these meal machines?

We can start by moving to a bigger building.

FreshDirect’s vending machine guru Marc Rosen says at this point, it appears that a critical mass of about 400 residents is needed to keep the high-tech machine (refilled daily) humming along at a profitable pace.  FreshDirect monitors the meal traffic remotely throughout the day and refills the machines as often as necessary--usually every morning. 

Swallowing our dejection, we asked how the pilot program was going—for instance, how did residents use the machines differently than their office-bound compatriots?

“In the residential buildings we are seeing a much smaller lunchtime business compared to our office locations,” says Rosen. “The majority of our residential business is from 6 to 9 at night, as a dinner option,” he says. “But there are also a bunch of people buying lunch in the morning on their way to work—that’s something we never thought about.”

Rosen revealed that the most popular meals among apartment dwellers are the meatball parmesan, the chipotle lime chicken rice bowl, and chicken tikki masala.  Office workers, meanwhile, are more partial to the four-cheese ravioli, baked ziti, and turkey cobb & grilled chicken salads.

While FreshDirect has been expanding their NYC office program for the past year, the residential program will continue in pilot mode for another three months. 

Most likely, the company will offer the vending machines as an amenity to residents and absorb all the costs of upkeep and repair. But it will not take the laundry-room-vendor route and profit-share with the building. (We guess that would be like having your tikki masala and eating it too.)

Until the new residential service is ready for its official launch, “we are keeping track of inquiries to follow up on when we are ready to expand,” says Rosen. 

Interested buildings should email vendinginfo@freshdirect.com.  

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